Miller will mostly sustain his 2014 success, but virtually no other members of the staff will. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
For the Baltimore Orioles, 2014 has ended. Thus, I’ve chosen to look ahead. Last week, I examined the Birds’ hitters; while some of them will probably regress, the group as a whole should still hold its own. Sadly, I can’t say the same for their pitching counterparts. Just how hurl-inducing are the hurlers?
3+ WAR: The Stars
Yeah, it’s not pretty.
1-2 WAR: The Supporting Cast
Here, we find some things to analyze, although it’s still mostly negative. Chen, who predicated his breakout 2014 on unrealistic peripherals, will find himself playing more mediocrely in 2015. More walks and strikeouts will accompany a spike in homers; the three true outcomes will depreciate him. With that said, a low BABIP will allow him to yet again beat his peripherals.
Norris’s fans and free passes will actually remain at the same level, and his dinger clip will only rise slightly. His ERA will nonetheless elevate, due to the disappearance of this year’s luck — which was especially odd, given that fortune had hitherto rarely been in his favor. A one-year display of overperformance probably won’t continue going forward; sadly, this principle applies to Norris.
The only member of the bullpen expected to post a one-win season, Miller will still ebb a bit. However, that will largely come as the result of regression to the mean — anyone not named Aroldis Chapman will inevitably fall back from a 42.6% strikeout rate. He’ll pitch like a phenom, and if the Orioles re-sign him, he’ll give the relief corps a lift.
In terms of peripherals, Tillman declined fairly drastically last year. His strikeouts evaporated, and they’ll likely stay away for good; solid control won’t help him overcome that. With a higher BABIP and a lower strand rate, he’ll see his ERA grow by a full run. Along with Chen and Norris, this makes for a depressing rotation.
0-1 WAR: The Scrubs
Of all the starters, Gonzalez benefited from the most luck this year, and to an astounding extent. That obviously won’t continue, but his subpar punchout and long ball numbers will, and they’ll tank his value. Britton also had serendipity in 2014, which won’t repeat itself; the relief iteration of him definitely posts better numbers than the starting one, but he simply isn’t an elite late-game arm.
Gausman has, perhaps, the oddest projection of the group. Evidently, he’ll only start three games next season, compared to 55 relief appearances. While he’ll pitch respectably in any role, this one could see him excel: The high-strikeout, low-walk flamethrower of 2013 might reappear — a tantalizing prospect for Baltimore.
O’Day, O’Day, O’Day. I just don’t know what to think about O’Day. Every year, the projections think he’ll die; every year, he not only stays alive, he thrives. Regardless, I generally trust empirical evidence, so I’ll say that his fortune will shrivel. Of course, he could prove the predictions wrong, and if the past tells us anything, it’s that he has a history of doing just that.
Hunter and Matusz had strange 2014 campaigns. Each had his ups and downs, but both ended with decent (albeit varyingly illegitimate) ERAs. Their run prevention will hold steady, making them moderately useful as platoon relievers.
After coming to the Orioles in a minor-league deal last November, Brach somehow put up a sufficient ERA, despite middling peripherals. Needless to say, it won’t happen again. The same story applies to McFarland — just replace the bit about trading with “the Orioles selected him in the 2013 Rule 5 draft”.
Finally, we arrive at the dregs: Jimenez and Webb. The Orioles inked the former to a long-term contract that seems asinine in hindsight; they swiped up the latter off the non-tender market, and he pitched like it. Really, anything above replacement-level for these two would be a success.
With the World Series wrapping up soon, the book will soon close on 2014. This means that, sooner or later, everyone will put look ahead to what will come. Hopefully, when Dan Duquette et al. do so, they’ll make the appropriate upgrades to the pitching staff, to ensure that next year’s squad goes even further than this one.
All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.